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Naval Police - 1890-date

The history of the SA Naval Police is closely linked to that of the SACMP.

Dockyard Police
The Dockyard Police was formed in Simonstown in 1890. Their origin is somewhat obscure, but it is known that people were locally recruited to police the West Dockyard. The Dockyard Police at that time was basically a security organisation responsible for the guarding of the dockyard and other vital naval installations. The label "gate guard" became attached to those men, and this label took a long time to remove. For the period 1910 to 1927 little is known about the dockyard police. They did however assist naval Shore Patrols from ships and local naval units with the maintenance of discipline.

In 1928 the dockyard police had a strength of 33 men. Their commander was an Inspector Henderson. He had been seconded from the Metropolitan Police in London and had on his strength
  • a Detective Sergeant in plain clothes
  • three Sergeants
  • 28 constables
The only outstation that was manned by the Dockyard Police was the Lower North Battery of Simonstown where a constable was posted for a month at a time.

In 1938 two more constables were added to the strength and two petrol driven patrol boats were handed over to the Dockyard Police. During World War Two these boats carried two depth charges each. There is no record of these charges being used in anger. In 1944 a Sgt Georges Haines retired from the Dockyard Police after 33 years service. By the end of WW2 the strength of the Dockyard Police had grown to eighty members.

South African Corps of Military Police (Navy)
During 1959, three members of the Dockyard police were appointed as peace officers and were used to form the first Investigation Branch. This branch subsequently became a SACMP (Navy) Detachment with twelve investigators. Both the Dockyard Police and the SACMP (Navy) Detachment worked in close liaison from the same headquarters.

During 1960 the Naval Detention Barracks were transferred to being under command of the Officer Commanding Dockyard Police.

In 1973 the title of the Dockyard Police was changed to that of Naval Police. The Detention Barracks remained their responsibility together with a responsibility for the security of all SA Navy establishments on land and sea. Five years later the Naval Police and the SACMP (Navy) Detachment amalgamated to form the SA Naval Police Branch.

Naval Provost Unit
The Marine Branch of the SA Navy was re-established during 1980 and in 1982 the Marines took over the dockyard security responsibility. Because of this most of the Naval Police on the strength of the Naval Provost Unit transferred to the Marine Branch. The few remaining criminal investigators and traffic officers remained to form the Naval Provost Unit, situated at Simonstown.

Sub-units of this unit were based at Naval Base Cape Town, Saldanha, Walvis Bay and Silvermine. Control of the Naval Detention Barracks was transferred to the Naval Provost Unit at this time. These organisations were under command of the Officer Commanding, Naval Command West Provost Unit. A separate unit existed in Durban with an additional sub-unit in Pretoria. These organisations obtained administrative and logistical support from their respective naval bases or units.

Naval Military Police
The Naval Provost Unit and sub-units were disbanded during in March 1990. The Naval Military Police branch was retained but the personnel were reallocated from the Naval Military Police Stations at Naval Base Simonstown, SAS Immortelle, SAS Scorpion, SAS Saldanha and SAS Wingfield. These SA Naval Military Police Stations became integral parts of their parent units.

The Naval Police based at Simonstown moved from their original headquarters in the Simonstown West Dockyard to the United Services Institute Building in St. George Street Cape Town in 1982. In 1990 they again moved to the Old False Bay Cottage Hospital.

As part of the transformation process of the SA National Defence Force, the Naval Police were transferred to the SANDF Military Police Agency on 1st April 1999. This change of command effectively meant that they ceased to function as a separate police organisation, but this in turn brought about greater opportunities and powers as their jurisdiction was now extended to all members of the SANDF and was no longer restricted to only the SA Navy.
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Naval Detention Barracks. The old Detention Barracks, located at SAS Simonsberg, was built for the Royal Navy in Simon's Town in 1899 and was used as a Detention Barracks continuously until it was handed over by HMS AFRIKANER (a Royal Navy shore installation based in Youngsfield, Cape Town) to the SA Navy on 29 March 1957

When the Detention Barracks were taken over by the SA Navy in 1957, it was administered by the Officer Commanding SANBRAX - then a Cdr B. Heggerty, who was the controlling authority.

During 1960 the Detention Barracks fell under the command of the Officer Commanding Dockyard Police. In 1973 the Dockyard Police became the " SA Naval Police" and the Barracks remained their responsibility until it was disbanded in 1982 and the responsibility taken over by the Naval Provost Unit. The Detention Barracks was finally closed down and handed over to the Naval Officer in Command, Naval Base Simon's Town during 1985.

Previous Superintendants of the Naval DB included:

  • Vice Admiral R.A. Edwards. Adm Edwards later became Chief of the SA Navy.
  • Commodore R. Olivier. Commodore Olivier was the only Military Police officer in the British Commonwealth to have been awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in action as a military police officer.
Features of the Detention Barracks included:
  • A hand bell, inherited by the SA Navy, which was allegedly used to to alert the staff when an inmate escaped, or in the event of fire.
  • A cannon, placed at the entrance to the DB, which was captured on 25 September 1894 at Chief Nana's stronghold at Troimie on the Benin River by forces under command of Rear Admiral C.B. Bedford.
Information regarding DB from "Paratus" - October 1995